Zimbabwe Protesters Draw Inspiration From #BlackLivesMatter

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(Bloomberg) –Protests against economic turmoil, arrests and human-rights abuses in Zimbabwe have moved online with a hashtag that’s plays on the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

The #ZimbabweanLivesMatter tag started after security forces blocked a street demonstration last week. It draws on the success of the global movement highlighting racial injustice that gained prominence after the death in May of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of the police.

The online campaign resulted in more than 700,000 tweets on Tuesday, including from sports personalities and celebrities in and outside the country. Those who endorsed the hashtag include Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira, a South African Rugby World Cup winner who hails from Zimbabwe, Cassper Nyovest, one of South Africa’s top pop stars, and Pearl Thusi, who starred in Africa’s first Netflix film, Queen Sono.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa labeled the planned street protests an “insurrection” meant to topple his administration. In a televised speech on Tuesday, he said “dark forces” within and outside the country were undermining economic recovery.

“The bad apples that have attempted to divide our people and to weaken our systems will be flushed out,” he said.

Zimbabwe is facing an economic crisis, with inflation of 737%, food and fuel shortages and a collapsing currency. At least 60 people, including 2020 Booker Prize long-listed novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga, have been arrested for demonstrating in the southern African nation, according to Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.

The primary role of the state is to protect its citizens and it had never fallen short of the responsibility, government spokesman Nick Mangwana said.

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